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Why Are You Here?

Q: My 20 year old daughter tells me she has five psychiatric diagnoses. Is that possible?

A: Your question makes me think of a dialogue I had when I first met with a new patient at the psychiatric hospital:

Me: “Nice to meet you, Susan. Please tell me why you are here.”

Susan: “I have MDD, OCD, PTSD, ADHD, BPD!”

Me: “but, Susan, why are you here?”

Susan: “I just told you!”

Unfortunately, we find ourselves in a mental health world where many people live in a mindset of labels and pathology. Some people, sadly and for a variety of reasons, prefer to look at themselves as unwell; and then it becomes part of their identity.

Please don’t misunderstand me: certainly there are those who suffer with mental problems, problems that have labels to them. Hopefully, these conditions can be correctly diagnosed by careful clinicians. And in today’s world we have effective medication and therapy treatments that can turn lives around.

The sages say that in a given day a person could have nine good things and one bad thing happen, and yet at the end of the day the mind will focus on the bad thing. Such is the human condition for many.

A positive outlook in life requires work. Certainly an awareness, a connection to one’s soul, can help tremendously.

To answer your question, yes, it is possible to have more than one psychiatric condition. (Think of the physical world where one may have asthma and diabetes and high blood pressure). But five, like your daughter states, is highly unusual and unlikely. I would guess there’s much more that meets the eye here for her.

Nonetheless, I suggest that you not challenge her on her statement. My guess is that she is reaching out to you, wants you to take the time and get to know her better. So yes, simply talk with her. Listen carefully. Show empathy. And in that way, you can help her to get to know her real self.

-Dr. John Yaakov Guterson

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